Giving back to your community and donating your time to help others has multiple benefits, especially as you age. It keeps you physically active, engages your mind, enables you to meet new people, and even teaches you new skills.
To help you get started, here’s a look at some reasons why you should volunteer and some popular opportunities to lend a hand.
Volunteers Make a Positive Difference
Charities and public organizations alike count on volunteers to support the many causes they represent.
Whether you pack food at a local food bank, serve meals at a shelter, visit elderly residents at a nursing home, or donate time to national organizations, every action you take in the hours you give makes a positive difference in your community and beyond.
It Engages Your Mind
Engaging your mind plays a vital role in healthy aging. In fact, staying socially active and productive by doing things like volunteering in your community can help with your overall well-being and might even lower the risk of dementia.
Plus, many volunteer efforts provide an opportunity to learn new skills. Any time you learn a task, you’re giving your brain a workout. One study found that adults ages 60-90 showed memory improvement after learning a new “complex skill” over three months.
It Boosts Your Mood
Doing meaningful activities via volunteering strengthens your mind and boosts your mood. Helping others and being productive can generate happiness and a sense of pride and accomplishment. Socializing and interacting with people can also curb loneliness, isolation, and depression.
It Provides Daily Structure and Purpose
Sometimes days seem to stretch forever when you’re retired, live alone, or don’t spend a lot of time with others. Volunteering gives days more structure in a similar way as working or attending school. Maybe you’ll spend two hours, three times a week at an animal rescue centre. Or, perhaps you’ll deliver meals to homebound people every evening.
Overall, maintaining a schedule adds anticipation, continuity, and satisfaction to your days. Seeing the smiles, comfort, and other results your efforts generate also gives you a sense of purpose.
It Increases Physical Activity
Staying physically active as you age is an essential part of maintaining good health. Getting out to lend a hand in the community keeps you moving, which is good for your muscles, bones, and heart, among others. Regular exercise and physical activity can help prevent hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and more. Serving meals at a soup kitchen, pitching in at a park cleanup, or tutoring at a local school are great examples.
It Builds New Relationships
Volunteering connects people and presents an opportunity to build new relationships. You can never have enough friends. The rapport you build with the people you meet in your community service endeavours can forge meaningful friendships and valuable social relationships in a wonderful, reciprocal way.
The Internet is an invaluable tool in finding volunteer options. Doing a Google search for “volunteering opportunities near me” should turn up lots of results.
You can also try to match your volunteer efforts with your interests. For example, if you love animals, contact local animal shelters, a nearby zoo, or a veterinary clinic to see if they need volunteers. If you love to cook, volunteer to prepare meals at a shelter or soup kitchen. If you love children, consider volunteering for story-hour at preschools or the local library. Maybe you run errands, be a companion, or drive an elderly neighbour to doctor’s appointments.
Overall, the time you give and the rewards and benefits you receive volunteering is a win-win for you and the organizations and people you serve.